Written by Ian Leach, (University of Michigan) Student Correspondent CET Jordan: Internship, Summer 2018
It’s been about two weeks since I’ve arrived here in Jordan, and my head is still spinning. In the past two weeks, I’ve made friends, signed a pledge to not speak English (which, at the time, felt as if I had signed my life away), ate unbelievable food, and begun a journey here in Amman which I had never experienced before. As forewarned by practically all of my more-traveled friends – and the amazing staff here! – I should be prepared that I would go through a honeymoon phase, where everything is new, fresh, and great. As I’m now going into my third week here in Jordan, I thought I might provide some small insights as I feel I’m reaching the precipice of some changes in my experience here. Although I’m no veteran of travel, study abroad experiences, or most CERTAINLY airports (I stood at a Zain billboard at Queen Alia Airport for about 5 minutes thinking if I could buy a sim card there), I can say that I’ve picked up on some tried and true advice that will be helpful for the traveler and non-traveler alike.
Be present!!! In a world of technology, smartphones, and computers, it can be very easy to fall into new and familiar patterns, such as going on Facebook. I found that I have been wasting a substantial amount of time scrolling through my typical feeds, so I decided to delete my Facebook app over the past few days. Of course, there are good reasons for social media – from posting updates about your trip to hearing about yet another one of your friends getting married to getting all those Facebook likes from your awesome study abroad pics – but none of these should supersede your experience here at UJ and with CET. How many people get to say they get to speak Arabic with Jordanian locals for months or travel around the country?! Take advantage of the experience while it’s here, and when you feel like falling back into familiar patterns, try and remember that you have limited time in Jordan and you should make the most of it.
Talk to your loved ones, but not too much. In a lot of ways, I love people, but I also can have a hard time breaking out of my proverbial shell. As such, being on a trip where I knew practically no one meant that I wanted to call my friends, my family, and keep to myself. Of course, it’s great having the chance to catch up with friends from home, but I’ve found a lot of comfort in the people I’ve made friends with here, too! I’ve made the choice over the past three weeks to try and talk to my friends/family once or twice a week. Other than that, I’ll send short text messages but have also been trying to give myself some space so I could make new (and awesome!) friends here. The friends I’ve made here have helped me develop a new “normal,” and I’d encourage y’all, when able, to try and find those same people.
Follow the language pledge. On one of the first days, a piece of advice that I was given was that if I met people that weren’t following the language pledge, that I should cut them out of my study abroad experience. While it hasn’t exactly been my intention to avoid people who I hear speaking English, I’ve found myself gravitating towards the people who follow the pledge fiercely. My friends and I have taken the pledge seriously, and although we’ve found serious challenges from doing so, I also can see noticeable differences in my and my friends’ language abilities. Perhaps before we couldn’t talk about a situation in a taxi, but now we’re able to make jokes and have begun to really enjoy the pledge. It might be a difficult situation to start, but I highly encourage it for all of you who want your language to improve.
Of course, these pieces of advice can vary, and no sets of rules or advice can satisfactorily give you all the tools one needs to succeed. That being said, you can do this and I hope you have just as great of a time as I am!